Putin to run for presidency in 2012
Vladimir Putin has said he will run for Russia's presidency in 2012, almost certainly ensuring a return to the office he previously held and foreshadowing years more of a strongman rule that many in the West have called a retreat from democracy.
If Mr Putin wins two presidential terms in a row, he will have been at the top of the Russian hierarchy for almost a quarter of a century.
In nominating Mr Putin, his United Russia party also approved his proposal that president Dmitry Medvedev take over Mr Putin's current role as prime minister.
Mr Putin took over the premiership after serving as president from 2000-2008, bowing to term limits. But he was always the more powerful figure, with Mr Medvedev viewed as a caretaker president.
During his presidency, Mr Putin ruled Russia with a steely command, bringing about a system known as "managed democracy" that saw opposition politicians all but eliminated from the national eye.
His personal popularity aided his manoeuvring. Many Russians view Mr Putin as the strong, decisive figure needed by a sprawling country troubled by corruption, an Islamist insurgency and massive economic inequality.
Mr Putin's nomination at a congress of the United Russia party on Saturday ends months of intense speculation as to whether he would seek to return to the Kremlin or whether he would allow the more mild-mannered and reform-leaning Mr Medvedev to seek another term in next year's election.
The presidential election, to be held on March 4, is preceded by national parliamentary elections on December 4, in which United Russia will seek to retain its dominance; the party has 312 of the 450 seats in the current parliament.
The period for formal submission of presidential candidates' names has not yet begun, and it is unclear who might choose to challenge Mr Putin for president.
Constitutional changes have extended the presidential term to six years from four beginning in 2012, meaning Mr Putin could stay on as president until 2024.